A rough and tumble day at the office:
Hollywood stuntman retires in Grand Junction By Amanda Arnold & Cloie Sandlin
magine getting tossed around, thrown off of buildings, set on fire and dangled from a helicopter. What about standing on top of the Golden Gate Bridge? While these activities definitely sound terrifying, for Michael Runyard they are all part of a rewarding career as a Hollywood stuntman. For almost 40 years, Runyard, 64, has found himself in the most interesting and daring predicaments on the silver screen. Some of his daredevil credits include “The Dukes
of Hazard” (2005), “Basic Instinct” (1992), “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), “Iron Man” (2008) and “The Lone Ranger” (2013). In addition to working as a stuntman, he has also worked as a stunt coordinator in several films, including “Fight Club” (1999) and “Twister” (1996).
A daredevil history
Runyard was involved in his first project as a kid—a bicycle safety film that was much more tame than his later work. He went on to race motocross, winning championships in Canada and the U.S., so he had a growing reputation for his motorcycle skills, which is what paved Runyard at the Daytona his way to the silver screen. Supercross, 1974 Not knowing what to do next after retiring from motocross in his mid 20s, Runyard got a job building sets at Universal Studios. His dad made him a carpenter box, decorated with motocross
photos, which Runyard would pull from stage to stage. Soon, those photos caught the attention of some stunt coordinators and directors. “My first job on a movie was ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’—the first one—doing bike work,” he said. With his motocross background, the bruising, bangem-up car scenes have always been a good fit for Runyard. One scene in “Basic Instinct” required him to do a car hit three times because he broke the windshield on the first two takes. Before the third take, the stunt coordinator asked him if he had another one in him. Though he was starting to swell up, he agreed to one more. “It doesn’t matter where you put the pad or how many pads you put on, when you do something like that, you’re going to get it,” he said. The crew reinforced the windshield with hard plastic for the third take. “I didn’t break the wind-
shield, but the only problem is when I hit it, I bounced,” he said. Some of the scenes Runyard’s been in stop audience’s hearts, but he has managed to stay out of harm’s way for the most part. He has only sustained two injuries on the job. He broke his femur laying down a bike in “The Fast and the Furious” and he got burned in a fire scene in another movie. “I got burned pretty bad—no scars or anything, but I was in the Sherman Oaks Burn Ward for two weeks. But those are the only two times,” he said nonchalantly. “But for 39 years, that’s not bad.”
LEFT: Michael Runyard has had a fascinating career as a Hollywood stuntman, working with acclaimed actors such as Sean Connery in his last Bond film “Never Say Never Again” (1983). Photos courtesy of Michael Runyard.
Runyard did stunts on “The Dukes of Hazzard” (2005)
With a background in motocross, Runyard specialized in motorcycle stunts but he has done just about everything “from high falls to being set on fire.” Photo from “Megaforce” (1982)
Published on Jan 3, 2017